BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Ben Kennedy moved past NASCAR Truck season leader William Byron with 19 laps to go and held at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday night for his first series victory.
Kennedy, the son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy and great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., became the first France family member to win a NASCAR national series race. He was making his 63rd career start.
“I can’t put it into words,” Kennedy said. “Someone asked me earlier today what it’s like going to Bristol for your first time and to win here is just so cool. I’m speechless. The guys gave me an awesome truck. Everyone at GMS Racing, Jacob Companies, the fans in the stands, everybody watching on TV, gosh this is just the coolest day of my life.”
Byron, a rookie won has won five races this season, looked as he would make it six when he took the lead from teammate Daniel Suarez with 21 laps left. But Byron went high into a turn and Kennedy was able to sweep past him. Kennedy had to hold on through a restart with seven laps to go, fending off Brett Moffitt the rest of the way for the victory.
“I was just thinking go as fast as possible on this last lap,” Kennedy said. “I knew Brett was putting pressure on me from behind. I appreciate him racing me clean. This is just so cool. These guys deserve it. They work so hard.”
The victory locked up a spot for Kennedy in the series’ eight-driver championship chase that begins in New Hampshire next month.
Daniel Hemric was third, followed by Byron and Johnny Sauter.
Kennedy had not led a lap all season before moving in front on a damp night at Bristol. The race’s start was delayed more than an hour when storms hit the area. When the green flag dropped, it looked as if Christopher Bell and Suarez had the strongest machines.
Each, though, couldn’t sustain things.
Bell led a race-high 101 of 200 laps until spinning out while racing Suarez up front. Suarez led 77 laps until he was passed by Byron.
Bell held on for seventh, while a late spin dropped Suarez to 29th in the 32-car field.
WHO’S HOT: Byron has not cooled off. The rookie driver followed up a win at Pocono, his fifth of the season, with a fourth-place run at Bristol. It was his eighth top-10 finish in 13 races this season.
WHO’S NOT: Two-time series champion Matt Crafton continued his disappointing summer, going only 70 of 200 laps before having to leave the track after he said “something broke.” Crafton started the season with six top-10s, including two victories, over the first eight races. He’s had only one top-10 finish in the past five times out and was dead last at Bristol, his worst finish of 2016.
THAT WAS FAST: Pole-sitter Tyler Reddick qualified at 128.917 mph, nearly 2 mph hour quicker than the 12-year-old qualifying record held by Ken Schrader since August 2004. Reddick led nine drivers who finished under Schrader’s speed in setting the grid for the truck race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
WET WEATHER: The start was delayed more than an hour because of rain. A caution came out early on Lap 28 when drizzle began to fall. NASCAR had scheduled a competition caution 40 laps in to see if the machines would be affected by the soggy conditions.
UP NEXT: Michigan International Speedway, Aug. 27. Kyle Busch is the defending race winner.